Shma Yisrael, Hear O Israel, the sacred proclamation especially in the face of imminent death, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One - uttered the last breath of six million European …
Shma Yisrael, Hear O Israel, the sacred proclamation especially in the face of imminent death, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One - uttered the last breath of six million European Jewish martyrs.
Hitler's rise to power in January 1933 hypnotized Germany into a tyrannical crusade to terrorize and dehumanize the Jew. In September 1935, the Nuremberg Laws officially stripped Jews of their German citizenship while subsequently making economic survival virtually impossible. Jewish professors and doctors were removed from their posts. Conjugal relations between the "pure Aryan race" and the "inferior lice-infested Jewish race" were forbidden. All intimacies for that matter. A kiss could lead to prison. Aryans would also lose their employment and status for not heeding the prolific signs in bold red print, "Jews are our misfortune. Whoever buys from a Jew is a traitor."
Within six years of Hitler's chancellorship half of Germany's 525,000 Jews fled Germany. But most of those who did not flee Europe never escaped Hitler's clutches.
Even as the Nazi war machine began to crumble, Hitler's zeal to solve the "Jewish Problem" intensified. The Warsaw Ghetto, Auschwitz, Birkenau, Treblinka, Theresienstadt, Sobibor, Majdanek, Bergen-Belsen, Chelmno, Buchenwald, Dachau seared their horrors into the Jewish DNA.
Blessed are You, Lord Our God, whose glorious kingdom reigns forever, gasped six million Jewish tongues turned to ash.
My four grandparents came from Warsaw and Lodz, Poland. My father, David, was born in Chicago in 1913. My mother, Rebecca, was born in St. Paul in 1917.
Pre-World War II Warsaw was home to 333,000 Jews. Lodz had 192,000 Jews. Three million Jews lived in Poland. Three-quarter million Jews lived in White Russia and northwest Russia. Moscow had 132,000 Jews, Kiev 140,000 Jews and Odessa 153,000 Jews. More than a million and a half Jews lived in the Ukraine. Another 900,000 in Romania.
Of Central Europe's pre-World War II 133 million inhabitants, roughly 5.7 percent or 7,620,000 were Jews. On the continent lived approximately 9.75 million Jews close to double the American Jewish population.
Census figures often minimize minorities who often prefer not to reveal religious affiliation and who often prefer not to mention nationality. For example, Czechoslovakia listed 356,000 Jewish citizens in 1931. In Czechoslovakia alone in the previous 1921 census, 724,507 persons refused to give their religious affiliation. Only 15,000 Czechoslovakian Jews survived the Holocaust.
Of the 400,000 Jews of Eastern Galicia (Western Ukraine) only 9,000 survived the Nazi onslaught and then retreated from the advancing Red Army. As Jews dwindled out of their foxholes in Western Ukraine, Hitler's [corpse] and labor camps were still smoldering, destroying as much evidence of the carnage as possible.
The German army occupied Hungary March 19, 1944. Budapest had 232,000 Jews. Within six months nearly half of Hungary's 800,000 Jews were deported to the extermination camps.
Of Vienna's 180,000 Jews before the war, the Red Army liberated 17,000 Jews, most of whom had been hidden in Christian homes. The majority of those had escaped other atrocities. Only 2,000 Austrian Jews were found in Austria after the war.
Of the Netherlands 180,000 Jews, 25,000 survived the war.
The statistics boggle the mind, which truly cannot grasp such an horrific account. All over the continent, Jews, gays, Gypsies, dissidents, even religious leaders who protested were rounded up suddenly and deported to their deaths. Even though the Third Reich lasted just a dozen years, its scar will be everlasting.
Abraham and Sarah weep as they watch their Christian, Moslem and Jewish children fight. Their tears commingle as they look to the growing camps on the southern U.S. border. Abraham turns to Sarah, "Mitukati, my sweet one, Do they not understand?" "No, Dodi, my beloved, If we were not kind to strangers, none of them would have ever come into being."
Statistics provided from the American Jewish Yearbook, 1945-46.
Judah Botzer served in the Israel Defense Forces in the 890th paratrooper regiment. He has lived in Taos County for three decades. He is a massage therapist and Hebrew teacher and lives in Tres Piedras with his dog Tzilah and cat Yedidah.
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